Moving The Railroad Shops Scatters Families
By W. P. Sissell
I was born in the day of the railroads, very close to the tracks that ran through Water Valley, one time home of the famous Casey Jones. I, at one time, could point out the home of Casey.
My older sister, Lucile, and her husband, Lealon, once lived not far from the New Orleans Zoo. New Orleans was also the home of my mother’s brother, Nolen, and his wife, Vivian. My folks thought that I was old enough to visit my sister and my aunt and uncle alone since I was almost a teenager. Also, recently I had gone to National 4-H Club Congress in Chicago with one chaperone for three delegates. This time I was to go to New Orleans, tagged (name and destination) and put in the care of the Conductor. My sister Lucile, met the train.
I was awakened the next morning by the roar of lions and tigers and elephants. It must have been feeding time and they seemed pretty close by.
The Railroad Shops and Offices
At the time of my birth the IC Railroad Shops and Offices were located in Water Valley, along with a turntable (the engines could be turned around on this). The shops and offices gave employment to many people. When these facilities were moved many people followed. My Uncle Arthur Crocker and family happened to be one of these. He found employment in Memphis and moved to Whitehaven. Later, he and Aunt Ethel, my father’s sister, moved back to Water Valley, where he worked as a carpenter for many years.
Son James, after attending a short term engineering course was employed by a Mobile firm. He, like I, found a lady in Taylor, to become his wife. They live in Mobile today.
Daughter Annette found employment with the Corps of Engineers. She served as a payroll clerk for the employees in building of Sardis Dam. She found a husband, Jimmy Harris, who worked for the Corps in their Vicksburg office.
Another friend, as a youngster, Cecil Crews, lived in the house between my aunts and uncles on Blount Street. His father’s job finally took him to Paducah, Kentucky. “C” and I visited, several years ago, at a Watermelon Carnival.
Although there were many whose jobs caused them to have to move there was one who just kept on working, Leden Bryan. Mr. Bryan was a Section Gang Foreman. Most of the time he was moving from one section of railroad to another with a track repair responsibility. Many of you know his wife—Miss Jo—who was one of the greeters at the hospital in Oxford for many years.
Leden Bryan and his crew lived on their job in railroad cars. Mr. Bryan had his own private car. At one time they were renewing a section of track in the West Point area and Leden asked me if I would come over in my truck and haul ties back on the halves to which I agreed. On the day that I went I arrived about thirty minutes early. His cook told me that I would have to wait that thirty minutes because Mr. Bryan could not be bothered until he was supposed to be awakened—I waited.
Leden was responsible for purchasing groceries for his gang. There was the occasion when he and Jo were buying supplies for the week in a grocery in Water Valley. Each had several baskets of groceries and was heading for the check-out. A passer by commented, “You must have a gang.” Leden answered, “We sure do, they are about to eat us out of house and home” with no explanation.
The railroad is about history today. We watched a TV program about the past of the railroad in the USA several days ago. That afternoon, as we exited a friend’s office a train whistle blew as it passed the crossing at the Batesville Square. It scared us as it sounded off. We have no through trains—just a switch now and then.
The sun has finally come out. It looks as if we are going to have a beautiful day—maybe spring has sprung for the year. In past years it was always nearing cotton planting time—but I know from mowing a part of our lawn this past week that it’s still wet.
Do have a great week!